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Baxter v. Montana

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Citation. Mont. Sup. Ct., 2009 MT 449, 354 Mont. 234, 224 P.3d 1211 (2009)

Brief Fact Summary. Robert Baxter (Plaintiff) was terminally ill and seeking a lethal dose of medication prescribed by his doctor to assist in his own suicide.  Baxter (Plaintiff), and his doctors (Plaintiff), filed suit seeking to prevent prosecution for physician-assisted suicide.


Synopsis of Rule of Law. Under the privacy and dignity provisions of the Montana Constitution, a right to die with dignity exists, including a physician"s assistance in dying.


Facts. Robert Baxter (Plaintiff) was a retired truck driver who was diagnosed as terminally ill with lymphocytic leukemia.  Baxter (Plaintiff) sought to end his life by self-administering and ingesting a legal dose of medication his doctor would prescribe.  Baxter (Plaintiff) and his doctors (Plaintiff) brought suit against the State (Defendant) to protect the doctors from criminal prosecution for assisting in the proposed suicide.  The district court held that under the Montana Constitution, a competent, terminally ill patient has a right to die with dignity and that includes protecting the patient"s doctor from prosecution under the state"s homicide statutes.  The district court concluded that state"s homicide laws were unconstitutional as applied to a doctor who provides assistance to a competent, terminally ill patient in dying.  Defendant appealed.


Issue. Under the privacy and dignity provisions of the Montana Constitution, does a right to die with dignity exist, including a physician"s assistance in dying?


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